Category Archives: Articles

My Favorite Free and Easy Apps for Language Learning

As our classrooms become more and more infused with technology, it is inevitable that we will need some help to decide what applications to use. If your students are using tablets, and many are, you may want to recommend some free apps to use for your classes. Here is a list of some of my favorite free and easy apps for learning a World Language.

Edmodo for Classroom Management

There are certainly other classroom management apps, but I am most familiar with Edmodo. At my school, we use a district-wide platform for posting assignments and agendas, grades, etc. but I still use Edmodo to connect my students with classes in Haïti, France and Canada to do projects together. I organize my students into groups, and the co-teachers in the other countries listed add their students to the small groups as well. It is very powerful to connect students with others around the world!

Almost everything you can do on Edmodo for the web is available in the app version of their platform. Students can access all assignments and documents you post within the app, whether they are posted in the backpack or in the class stream. Students can take photos, post videos and upload documents they create, and post links to other items they need to provide for their assignments.

Dealing with Documents

If you ask students to work with PDF documents, and you want them to edit them, consider using the Evernote apps. Evernote is amazing! And they keep adding new options, so check them out!

  • The Evernote app is great for taking notes, for writing assignments, for recording sound files, and taking photos. Students can share their notes with others via a hyperlink, which they can post on Edmodo to turn in. Evernote is a great app for journal writing – have students take a picture of their choice, then write about it in response to a prompt for a daily warm up. Students can create a notebook to share so they can post the one link to turn in the whole set of journal entries if you prefer.
  • Evernote’s Skitch app is a can be used to take notes on a PDF document. If you are doing close reading of an authentic resource saved in PDF format, students can annotate the document, highlight words or phrases, add arrows and questions, etc. This is a great way to incorporate close reading in your language classes. In addition, students can turn in their annotated document via a share link if you want to give participation credit.
  • Evernote’s Penultimate app is designed for taking hand-written notes or to make drawings. Students can have a lot of fun drawing, in color, something you describe in the target language, then showing their table partners the results, and describing verbally their drawings. They can add the drawing to a note in Evernote, and add a composition describing their pictures.
  • Evernote also has an app called Scannable, which I have found very useful! When I find a great article I want to use in one of my French-language magazines, I can use my phone to scan the document with Scannable. It saves the scanned document to Evernote. I can then go to my iPad or MacBook to access the document for posting on Edmodo to share it with students. Students can also scan paper-based projects they make to save in Evernote as a portfolio of their work. I have found this to be very powerful – students can see how they have grown in fluency from year to year as they look back at their previous projects. I love hearing them tell me about how amazed they feel to see their older projects in comparison with their more recent work. The power of reflection is worth the effort needed to support students to create these portfolios.

 Reference Apps

I recommend that you recommend a set of language reference apps for students, so they don’t just go to Google translate for everything. Google Translate, although it has great potential, does not yet satisfy my inner linguist! Like most language teachers I know, I don’t want students to use Google translate because it is not always accurate enough for our purposes, and because it does not yet offer enough information to make good decisions about the correct words to use. I much prefer these options:

  • Word Reference – my students and I both like WR as it not only has language-to-language dictionaries, but it gives examples of how the words are used. I want to engage students’ critical thinking at a deeper level than just word-to-word equivalencies, which language teachers all know does not work. I much prefer that student use WR so they can see the many ways some words are used, which helps them make better choices. WR also verb charts for all those pesky verb forms and tenses, and Language Forums where students can discuss with others what they are discovering, and what they wonder, as they learn their language of choice.
  • If you and your students want to pay for some apps, there are many other reference tools to suggest. My favorites in French are Robert Mobile, the Bordas L’Intégrale, the Larousse series of dictionaries (Fr-Eng, Fr-Spanish), and the Bescherelle. There are two free apps for French I would highly recommend: Learn French with RFI and TV5Monde. There is also the wonderful Merci Professeur! for our own growth and development, even if you are a native speaker of French.

Tech for Transformative Purposes Only

There is so much more about this topic, but for now, I think these apps will help support both you and your students as you seek to integrate technology into your World Language curriculum. Remember, however, we don’t need to integrate technology just for the sake of the technology! Technology should be used if it is transformative to the learning process, otherwise, it is just one more thing to address, and honestly, who has time for that? If you would like to learn more about this notion of transformative use of technology, consider looking at articles about the SAMR model, such as this one at Technology is Learning, and these many articles right here on Edutopia!

Got Apps?

Let us know how your tech integration for World Languages is going. If you have other apps to recommend, please share your discoveries and ideas for using them in the comments below! I look forward to learning with you.

Happy Language Learning,

Don

 


Une bonne idée de lecture pour le cours de #FLE

Une idée tirée du site Oh, mon île! Ce site en a plein, des idées!


Temps d’échange qui permet aux étudiants d’entrer en interaction pour un projet de lecture commune, le cercle de lecture met en jeu de nombreuses compétences à l’oral comme à l’écrit, développe le vocabulaire et fait découvrir des œuvres littéraires.

Bon, pour la grande phrase, c’est fait.

Maintenant, le principe est simple : à partir de la lecture d’une même œuvre, chaque membre du cercle de lecture a un rôle spécifique afin de mener ensemble une conversation sur le texte.

Les étapes:

  • Téléchargez en PDF Les rôles des membres du cercle de lecture.
  • Choisissez une œuvre adaptée à votre public (voir plus bas pour plus d’infos).
  • Première séance : Présentation du cercle de lecture et de l’œuvre au programme + Distribution des rôles (c’est encore mieux quand les étudiants choisissent celui qui les intéresse). Plusieurs cercles peuvent être formés si les participants sont nombreux, certains rôles peuvent être assumés par un binôme ou supprimés, bref, plusieurs techniques sont possibles, à vous de les adapter à votre terrain.
  • Entre les deux séances: lecture intégrale ou partielle de l’œuvre, travail personnel hors classe.
  • Deuxième séance : Cercle de lecture mené par l’animateur de discussion (et soutenu par le prof si nécessaire) : il distribue la parole aux membres du cercle, qui échangent sur leur lecture, font part de leurs opinions, réflexions ou recherches. Si vous avez choisi de fragmenter l’œuvre, vous pouvez programmer un atelier lecture sur plusieurs séances, les étudiants pourront ainsi changer de rôle. La conversation peut durer entre 30 et 45 minutes.

Par ailleurs, vous pouvez prolonger le cercle par d’autres activités autour de l’œuvre, comme enregistrer une version audio, créer une bande-annonce ou encore une affiche, écrire des fins alternatives sur différents modes (tragique, romantique, comique, …), enregistrer un débat à la manière d’une émission littéraire, etc. Je vous conseille aussi de visiter le site de L’inspecteur Lafouine : là, la compréhension écrite va permettre de résoudre des énigmes et de faire jaser sévère.

Bref, il existe de nombreuses activités à mettre en place pour embarquer vos étudiants.

Bon, mais vous allez me dire : où trouver des œuvres motivantes pour les étudiants ?

Le Canopé de l’Académie d’Amiens a mis en ligne en octobre 2015 une liste de sites où trouver de quoi s’amuser. De TV5 Monde à Litteratureaudio.com, vous trouverez des milliers de documents gratuits en ligne et vous pourrez aussi travailler avec les versions audio des œuvres pour accompagner la lecture.

Voici la mine d’or : La grande bibliothèque numérique en ligne

En version payante, diverses maisons d’édition offrent des ouvrages (Le Monde en VF,  Lire en Français Facile, …) proposent des collections avec des livres sympathiques, comme « Enquête Capitale », accessible dès A2.

Sur T’enseignes-tu, Céline Mézange propose 5 œuvres à exploiter.

Sur Français Langue Étonnante, on trouve aussi un article très utile sur les lectures faciles.

Et puis, “spéciale dédicace” au Horla de Maupassant  qui fait un excellent support pour des C1-C2 (les deux versions laissent place à diverses exploitations).

Et vous, quelles lectures proposez-vous à vos étudiants?

Pour continuer à fouiner sur le sujet, le CRID propose une bibliographie intitulée «  La littérature en classe de FLE, nouveaux enjeux, nouvelles pratiques », avec des ouvrages et des sites de références. Rendez-vous ici.


A MUST read for all educators by @BetaMiller via @Edutopia

My post is a response to one by Andrew Miller on Edutopia – a MUST read for every educator!

Thanks to Andrew Miller once again for a great post on Edutopia! I could not agree more with Andrew that there are grading practices which need to be seriously examined. We must ask if we are gaining what we really want in our grading systems. Are students learning, progressing, achieving? What do we really want to see happen in our classes?

I don’t want students to feel like grades are a game to be played – he or she who has the most points wins is not the outcome I want. I want to have students who are empowered, who believe that they can do whatever they seek to accomplish, who have learned and are prepared to change the world, starting with themselves.

Lofty goals? Of course! I won’t believe anything less for my students! We must develop grading systems which honor growth, which empower, and which help support reflective practices. We must support students with fair grading systems, which do not frustrate them, but which help them understand where they are on a continuum of achievement.

I have often said that my motto for my classroom, and one of my mottos for life is this: “It is ok to be where you are; it is not ok to stay there.” I believe we must always strive to keep moving forward. How can I help my students by supporting their growth? I certainly don’t believe that a grading game is going to achieve the goal!

To that end, I offer retake exams (though not the same test), proficiency-based assessments (not discreet item tests), re-teaching opportunities, re-do assignments, reflection opportunities… and much more. I did not start teaching this way, but I am fully there now, and I will continue to look at other ways to support growth for all students, because I believe that each and every one can and will learn if given enough support. Yes, we can do it! C’est possible!

Thank you again, Andrew, for inspiring good dialogue about this important issue.

Best regards,
Don


Thinking about Student Voice and Choice

This note refers to an article posted on Edutopia at this link. It originally was posted on the P21 Bloagazine.

My friend from #LangChat and ACTFL conferences, Marilynn Mansori, has posted a great article on Edutopia! I recommend it to you. The link is posted above.

A quick summary of her note follows.

These four ideas can help teachers start building student voice and choice into language learning.

  1. Use an inquiry approach to language instruction.
  2. Employ personalization strategies that allow students to see themselves in what they learn.
  3. Make the learning relevant to the students.
  4. Invite students to make local and personal connections with the language they study.

To these four points, I would add a 5th, which Meriwynn agreed, is also important for an inquiry-based approach to language learning.

#5. Choose themes of global importance.

Students want to know that they can make a difference in the world. How can we create units which shift the traditional WL curriculum from the typical units of family, food and sports, to more challenging global themes such as world hunger and nutrition, or healthy living in diverse communities?

I love the power of collaboration. Thanks Meriwynn for an inspiring post!

 

learner centered George

 

Upon further inquiry on the topic of voice and choice, I came across this excellent infographic by George Couros, and a blog piece by him at this link, on his website, The Principles of Change.

George states:

As I think that leaders should be able to describe what they are looking for in schools I have thought of eight things that I really want to see in today’s classroom.  I really believe that classrooms need to be learner focused. This is not simply that students are creating but that they are also having opportunities to follow their interests and explore passions.  The teacher should embody learning as well.

George advocates for a new kind of classroom interaction and learning, one in which these eight characteristics are visible and normal:

  1. Voice
  2. Choice
  3. Time for Reflection
  4. Opportunities for Innovation
  5. Critical Thinkers
  6. Problem Solvers/Finders
  7. Self-assessment
  8. Connected Learning

That’s what PBLL looks like, and why I love it! I recommend these resources, and there will be more to come. Stay tuned!

 

 

 


Resources to Fight Bullying and Harassment at School | Edutopia

This list of resources from Edutopia is sure to have something to help you with the challenges of dealing with bullies of all kinds!

“Discover websites, organizations, articles, planning guides, lesson plans, and other resources dedicated to preventing bullying and harassment.”

Source: Resources to Fight Bullying and Harassment at School | via @Edutopia

Edutopia logo

 

 


Assessing the 4 C’s in World Languages?

This post first appeared here on Edutopia.

 

At my school we are discussing how we might fit all our assessments under the 4 C’s of 21st Century Skills – communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration. Why? Because these four skills are our school-wide learning outcomes, and we want to see how we can make them more clear for students. We’re trying hard to be more serious about these expected learning outcomes for our students.

It seems faily clear how World Languages fits under communication. Our national and state-level standards all aim at supporting students to achieve proficiency in a second language, in three modes of communication, oral and written production, i. e., interpretive communication (reading, viewing and listening for understanding), interpersonal communication (speaking and writing in two-way formats), and presentational communication (both speaking and writing to an audience). We have lots of rubrics to assess and guide students toward these outcomes, and according to proficiency levels – novice, intermediate and advanced. Accordingly, the biggest percentage of our grading system will aim at communication outcomes.

We also understand collaboration fairly well. We have students work together on projects, often in PBLL-aligned units, as well as in other small groups, and we have developed rubrics to guide students to demonstrate leadership and initiative, individual responsibility, and facilitation and support. We have already had some good success with these rubrics.

What about how to assess critical thinking and the creative process? We engage students often in inquiry-based learning, and ask them to create projects wherein they demonstrate critical and creative thinking as applied to their products. We do not have many grades in these two categories, however, so we feel as though it may be somewhat contrived to have separate categories for them.

The rub is this: what else do you think is worth assessing vis-à-vis these two particular skills in a World Language curriculum? What percentage of a student’s grade would you consider reasonable to devote to critical thinking and creativity? What’s more, are there other things you would want to include in an overall grading system which are not really classifiable under the four C’s? If so, what are they? We have some ideas, but we’re quite curious to know what you think as well.

So World Language gurus, we would love to hear your ideas. We’re trying to make this work, but we’re not yet sure how to solve the puzzle. Help us figure it out!

Looking forward to your comments, so until then, cheers!

Don


Going deeper with PBLL planning

This question was posted recently on Edutopia

Dear Don,

Thank you for your article. I am a French teacher at the American School of New Delhi and I am currently preparing a COETAIL program (Certificate of educational technology and information literacy) . As part of my last course, I have decide to implement a PBL task. I am teaching a beginner group and our next unit is about ‘food’. I have been inspired by your article to ask the students to set up a restaurant in a francophone country. As a novice with PBL, I would be really grateful if you could give me some advice to ensure a succesful and enjoyable experience for my students : do you give your students any vocabulary or structures beforehand? how do you make sure that they communicate with each other in the target language (considering that I have a beginner group, they might use more English than French)? How do you assess them along the way? How do you track individual’s participation in the group? I’ll appreciate any advice, rubrics, resources I could use to help me set up that project. Merci beaucoup!

 

Hi Julie – you have some GREAT questions! Well done on experimenting with PBLL (project-based language-learning) as well.

I usually introduce a PBLL-aligned unit with some form of comprehensible input in the form of a story related to the learning targets and including a driving question for inquiry. For example, for this “food unit,” the driving question(s) is/are: How can we help to preserve the rich culinary heritage of the Francophone world? The learning targets are formulated in “I can statements” = I can + language function + theme. For example:

  • I can describe how to prepare a recipe from the target culture.
    I can ask and answer questions about the foods of the target culture.
    I can help someone select a dish from a menu.

My story will model all these learning targets. I include key vocabulary and structures (not grammar! but syntactical relationships, or sentence frames) as a model of the language they will learn and produce. My story may have episodes as well, to break it down into segments, as all at once could be overload. I do not provide lists of words, I ask students to share out new words they are learning, and we create a word wall – usually on Padlet.com, but also the walls of the classroom. I am not keen on a “defined list” – I want students to own their vocabulary. There can be choices here.

Students work in groups of four ideally. More is too many, three is the least. They have assigned roles (decided by the group) to ensure everything is done well – project manager, secretary, questioner/clarifier, producer…). I help scaffold interpersonal communication between students with sentence frames – on Padlet and on paper. I also circulate around the room constantly, checking in with groups as they do their research. I ask and answer questions in French, and support their use of the target language. Students are encouraged to use target language as much as possible, but they are not required only to speak French.

I have rubrics for several things: collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and of course communication: oral and written, in the three modes of communication – interpretive, interpersonal and presentational. I am working on updates of my rubrics, including making variations for novice, intermediate and advanced level fluencies. The ones I have made are on my website at https://drdmd.wordpress.com – see the tab labeled “PBLL” – note that this page is under construction, but there is a link to my old site where there is all I have posted so far. More to come on this! You will find a lot of resources there.

I am writing a “how to” book on PBLL, but it is in draft, not yet done. More to follow on this!

I hope this gets you started! Thanks for your post, and best wishes on your good work!

Cheers,
Don


The Importance of World Languages and Intercultural Competence

The national debate about education seems omnipresent in the media, whether on TV or the radio, in newspapers and magazines, or in social media, from Facebook to Twitter, and more. As a nation, we look to our schools to educate students for participation in an increasingly flattened global economy. We hear about the importance of teacher accountability, of better test scores in math, sciences, and English. We also need to hear much more about creating increased opportunities for students to learn other languages, starting in early grades, so they may have sufficient opportunity to reach high levels of communicative proficiency and intercultural competence. The time has come for us to open up the debate more fully about this important question.

While it is true that English enjoys a position of prestige on the global scale, we should not to take it for granted; we cannot predict what the future may hold. Even so, America must develop citizens who can communicate well in other languages. We have to address national security concerns, to be sure. We must also to prepare students who can demonstrate respect for our trading partners. Beyond those concerns, we do well to ensure that students are prepared to understand our neighbors, friends, allies, foes, and those within our own borders who are members of language minority communities. Language learning opportunities open doors for mutual appreciation, understanding and respect. As a world leader, America needs citizens who show an interest in building positive and equal relationships with other nations. When we make that kind of investment, we gain much more than a business transaction. We also gain the prospect of making new friends and allies.

There is another benefit to language study that warrants our attention. Students who learn other languages also gain insights into other cultural perspectives, and intercultural competency, which is defined as the ability to communicate in culturally appropriate ways, while showing appreciation and understanding of others, and maintaining a spirit of openness and respect for others. To attain to a high level of intercultural competency, students require enough time not only acquire another language to sufficient proficiency, but also time to explore, explain, investigate, and reflect upon the perceptions of other cultural groups, their values and their beliefs.

 

As students investigate other cultures through authentic resources, they gain insights into the commonalities and the differences between cultures. According to studies by Kramsch, Deardorff, Moeller, and others, cultural inquiry leads to greater insights into one’s own culture, a greater awareness of the similarities and differences between cultures, and greater self-awareness. As students reflect on the results of their inquiry, they come to realize how culture impacts one’s attitudes and worldview. They reach a deeper understanding of others, and they also grow in flexibility, adaptability, empathy, and respect.

Intercultural Competence – A Conceptual Framework

To achieve these worthy goals, we must be bold in our efforts to increase language-learning opportunities in the early years of our children’s educational journeys. In my own school district, for example, we recently completed a group inquiry into the ways we could offer more opportunities for students to begin language study in early elementary years. We have a Spanish-English dual immersion magnet school, which has been in existence for several years. This highly successful program is modeled on the French immersion schools of Canada, which have a long-proven record of success in supporting students to become bilingual, interculturally aware, and cognitively more advanced than their monolingual peers. In my district, we have added a second dual immersion magnet school, and plan to add others. In addition, we have worked to establish clearly defined language learning pathways in K-12 so students will be able to pursue language studies across their educational journey. Efforts such as these should be considered and implemented across the country.

Clearly there are many advantages to establishing such language-learning opportunities for the future of our country and its citizens. Let us begin in earnest to discuss how we can ensure we meet these strategically essential goals, and how we may prepare our children to be globally aware and communicatively proficient in more than one language. The future of America’s standing in the world is at stake. Now is the time to act thoughtfully, thoroughly and intentionally, to meet these important objectives.


My PBLL Webinar on Infusing Culture for the NFLRC at University of Hawaii

 


5 Favorite Apps for Project-Based Language-Learning

This article first appeared on Edutopia.org at:

5 Favorite Apps for PBL Language Learning | Edutopia.

If you have an inkling to try your hand at project-based language-learning (aka “PBLL”), you will need to stay organized, and help keep the students on track toward meeting our communication-based proficiency outcomes. Here are a few tips I have learned as a PBLL teacher.

1) Help! I need a management system!
My favorite app for managing the ebb and flow of communication between my students and me is Edmodo. There are other worthy options, but I have been using Edmodo for a number of years, and it feels like home now.

I post daily agendas on the Edmodo calendar, and I like that students can add notes to their own calendars as well. I post assignments, and assess them in the gradebook, leaving suggestions for improvement. I like to assign reflection prompts on a regular basis, so posting them on Edmodo means I don’t need to collect another piece of paper. What’s more, I can go home, sit in my comfy chair, read the reflections on my iPad, respond quickly to them, and keep students on track with their projects. I like that we can post students’ final products, and share them with our sister classes in Martinique and in Marseille, knowing that our friends will see them and post comments. They really enjoy seeing the comments in French from our friends!

I also appreciate that students can send me notes and questions via Edmodo; I have set up notifications to come to my phone, so I can reply when I wish, usually right away since it entails only a moment or two to do so. Edmodo has really helped me develop good relationships with my students. Parents can follow their students as well.

Did I mention that Edmodo is free? Yes, they have a few upgrades for which one can pay, but the most important tools cost nothing. Nice!

2) Reminders on Remind!
As I have reached the “mature” teacher stage of my career, I have become a bit forgetful! Luckily there is Remind (formerly known as Remind 101). I like that I can send a quick note to a whole class, or to just a few students at a time. Remind has added some nice new features as well, my favorite being that I can attach a file to the message, like handouts and the rubrics for our unit, and the students have them in hand right away. If a student says (s)he needs another copy, I simply send it via Remind. I like that I can send notes to help students prepare for presentation day, to bring their food items to share on holidays, or just to complement them for doing a good job. They like that the notices come right to their phones. Win win win! Did I mention that Remind is free? Yes indeed! Free.

3) Blending content on BlendSpace
I love to use lots of authentic resources in the target language. There is little need for textbooks when there are so many multi-media options available on the Internet (I still use textbooks, just not very often). Blendspace is a great tool for creating a playlist of resources: photos, videos, text… For each resource, I can add some text or a question or prompt to accompany the media. Students click on each resource, see the prompt, and contribute to a class discussion right in the playlist. Other students can post comments in response to others. Once the playlist is assembled, I can embed the playlist on my class website or on Edmodo. Did I mention that BlendSpace is free? I am starting to see a pattern here!

4) Bulletin boards on Padlet
I LOVE Padlet, and so do my students. I create a board, post a prompt with an accompanying image, link or document, and students post their replies, questions, or other contributions on the board.

We recently did a project on art and museums in Paris. To support students to learn to describe various types of artwork, I posted photos of paintings, statues, and other artworks on a Padlet board, and asked students to write descriptions. They were all engaged with their learning, and I had a document at the end as a formative assessment which helped me track their progress toward meeting the communication-based objectives of our unit. The next day, I provided workshops on various aspects of the target language or cultural content which needed clarification. The feedback helped students to improve their projects. Did I mention that Padlet is free? Yup, free, just like the others!

5) Flipping for FlipGrid!
I have one more tool to share. It is FlipGrid.com, and although it isn’t free (sorry!), it isn’t expensive either, not for what you get. FlipGrid costs 65$ a year, and for that, I get a great tool to help my students gain confidence with their speaking skills. I post a prompt or question, and students record a video reply. They can view their video before they submit. If they want to, they can re-do their video reply as many times as they like, until they submit the final response.

I have a lot of students who are deathly afraid of speaking in front of an audience. FlipGrid allows them, and the others who are more brave, to submit a speaking assignment which represents their best work. They are happy because they can do it even on their phone if they want. I am happy because I finally have an EASY tool to use to collect speaking assignments, and assess them on my iPad in that comfy chair I mentioned earlier. SO much more fun than grading those old grammar tests I used to give so very long ago. It may not be free, but it is well worth it to me, especially when I see the results. Priceless!

What about you? What other tools have you found useful for your language classes? I would love to hear about them and share ideas about how you are using them to support your students to communicative-proficiency in the language you teach. Hope to see your comments soon!

Best wishes,
Don